Among the latest casualties in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict are two young Indian-origin Israeli soldiers. While Chief Sergeant Barak Refael Dighodkar’s grandfather was from Mumbai, Lieutenant Paz Eliyahu traced his roots to Kochi.
Dighodkar, 27, was killed in an attack on an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) camp in the Gaza Strip on Saturday. Eliyahu, 22, is reported to have been killed in a booby trap bomb blast, also in the Gaza Strip, on July 23.
Speaking to The Indian Express on the phone from Jerusalem, Noah Massil, president of the Central Organisation of Indian Jews in Israel, said Dighodkar would have been one of the few lawyers in the community.
“At the age of 18, he was enrolled for three years of compulsory military training. After his conscription ended, he joined a four-year law course at the Beer Sheva University. He had recently begun working with a lawyer in Rekhovot, a city located 14 kilometres from Gan Yavne… We have many engineers in our community, but not many lawyers,” he said.
According to Massil, Dighodkar was a part of the IDF’s reserve force. He was posted in the Gaza Strip with the engineering department. Annually, the reserve force practices for a month, after 40 days advance notice. During a war, however, there is no such prior warning.
Massil said Dighodkar’s parents run a boarding school for underprivileged children. “His grandfather emigrated to Israel from Mumbai in the 1960s and married a Jewish woman from Tunisia. His mother is from Iran,” said Massil.
Dighodkar was the eldest of three brothers — the other two, in their early twenties, are also a part of the reserve force. “His whole family has undergone military training. They know what a war with Palestine is about,” said Massil.